Fishing the tidal Arun

The tidal Arun near Amberley holds bream to more than six pounds and roach to over two – but you don’t catch many by plonking yourself down any old where at any old time, warns Dave Finnis.

When the tidal Arun runs out you certainly know about it – it is said to be the second most powerful tidal river in England, after the Severn. The force of the flow is the key factor in finding the fish, says Dave. Take his word for it – he has taken bream to 6lAb (2.95kg) and roach to 2 lb 2oz (0.96kg) from this West Sussex venue.

Houghton Bridge

One of the best stretches is above Houghton Bridge, near Amberley. Here you can fish from the west bank on a Worthing and District Piscatorial Society day ticket (buy it in the tea shop by the bridge or from the tackle shop Tropicana ofLittlehampton, 5/6 Pier Road, Littlehampton – Tel. 0903-715190).

In Dave’s experience, summer is far and away the best time of the year to fish here. Through autumn sport becomes increas- ingly patchy as the fish move upriver, and in winter the stretch simply isn’t worth bothering with.

Like most tidal rivers, the Aran fishes best when the tide is going out. When the tide comes in, the river backs up at a tremendous pace and rises rapidly with the full weight of the sea behind it. It only takes about four hours to flood, says Dave, and isn’t really worth fishing at this stage. At high water the river stands still briefly before running out. Without the sea behind it, it takes about eight hours to run out.

Size of tide is also important, according to Dave. Big tides are best avoided. On a big tide of 6m (6/2yd) or more the river comes right up over the top of the banks at high water, and when it runs out again you get rafts of rubbish coming down all the time, making fishing very difficult, if not totally impossible.

Ideally, then, you want to pick a day in summer with a small or medium size, morning high tide, so you can fish the tide running out all day. Dave advises you to arrive at the bridge about an hour before high water, so that you have time to walk to your chosen swim and tackle up in readiness to start fishing at the top of the tide.

As the crow flies, Houghton Bridge is about seven miles inland from Little-hampton, but allowing for its many twists and turns there is nearer 12 miles of river between the bridge and the sea. To work out when high tide is at the bridge, add about two hours to the time given for Little-hampton in the tide table.

Study the flow

Having picked the right day, how do you choose a swim? The muddy river is a daunting sight at first, with an apparently uniformly fast and swirling flow, but as you walk the bank and study the water more closely you begin to notice definite variations in the speed and turbulence of the current – variations caused by changes in the course of the river. Long, wide straights On long, wide straights the flow is strongest down the middle but, not being constricted, is fairly spread out and steady. These are good swims for roach, reckons Dave, but are really too fast for bream. Sweeping bends The main flow is on the outside of large, sweeping bends, but the flow on the inside is only slightly slower. According to Dave, these swims are also really too fast for bream, and are not quite as good for roach because the flow is not as even and steady.

Tight bends constrict and deflect the main flow from one bank to the other. Above and below such bends you get markedly slower, steadier, shallower water on the sides of the river opposite the path of the main flow. These are good swims for roach – and great ones for bream, which hole up in the reeds that grow out into the river.

Baits and methods

The open-end feeder is much the best method, with maggots, casters and sweet-corn in your groundbait. On the hook, maggots, casters and worms all work, but sweetcorn and breadflake are more selective and don’t attract so many bootlace eels. The most important thing, says Dave, is to get the weight of the feeder exactly right, so that it just holds bottom – you might need 2oz (56g) or more of lead loading to start with, gradually going lighter as the river drops and slows.

Put to the test

On a bright day in early September, Dave chose a swim where a year earlier he won a match with 33 lb (15kg) – a catch mainly made up of six bream to 6 lb 4oz (2.8kg).

The swim is on a short straight between two tight bends. The main flow is on the inside, and is fast, deep and turbulent. On the far side it is much slower, shallower and steadier and, best of all, there is a large bed of reeds growing out from the far bank just downstream.

Fishing an open-end feeder across, with breadflake on the hook, he took roach to 1lb (0.45kg). The bream failed to answer the photocall – but that’s fishing for you!